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LeRoy Myers is the incumbent this election

October 25, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The man who unseated a Western Maryland legislative titan four years ago is now an incumbent trying to fend off a political challenger.

LeRoy E. Myers Jr., a Republican, created a stir in 2002 when he defeated Democrat Casper R. Taylor Jr., who was the House speaker.

Now, Myers, 55, of Clear Spring, is trying to hold onto his Subdistrict 1C seat.

His opponent in the Nov. 7 general election is Democrat Brian K. Grim of Cumberland, Md., who won a primary in September.

Grim, 27, who manages the concessions at Rocky Gap State Park in Allegany County, said he's focusing mainly on education and jobs as issues.

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Delegates serve four-year terms. The salary is $43,500.

Myers, the president and owner of Myers Building Systems, a Clear Spring general contracting firm, sees better pay for teachers as a top priority, along with affordable health insurance.

He said the state of the economy is an issue in his subdistrict, too, but it's different in each county.

In Allegany County, where the majority of the subdistrict lies, "they are crying for jobs there," Myers said.

Washington County, which has the rest of the subdistrict, is "more selective," intent on attracting high-tech industry, he said.

The candidates differ on legalizing slot machines, which Myers opposes entirely and Grim supports as long as host counties get back about 30 percent of the revenue their slot machines generate.

Each sees his stage in life as an advantage over his opponent's.

"I bring to the table true life experience," said Myers, who is married and has four children and six grandchildren. That experience, he said, includes raising a family and running a business, which means knowing the struggles of supplying health insurance.

"I believe we have lost a respect for wisdom and age," he said.

Conversely, at a recent candidates forum, Grim, who is single, framed the age differential as a benefit to him. He said he offers "youth, energy and the future" and noted that Thomas Jefferson was elected to the Virginia legislature at age 26.

Grim's stance on education is that Maryland must fully fund school needs like construction, and must increase pensions to keep teachers from leaving for other states.

He calls the No Child Left Behind Act a "bad law" from which the state should try to exempt itself.

Grim favors giving tax incentives - but not land or other resources - to help bring new employers into the subdistrict. He said state representatives should take "a more active role in promoting the region," either through the media or by contacting potential employers.

Myers said he encourages high-tech companies to extend their operations into Western Maryland. "I'm working on this with a group out of Montgomery County," he said.

He wants the state to let small businesses band together to develop better, more competitively priced health insurance plans.

He is true to the Republican ideal of, as he puts it, "streamline and get government out of the way for businesses."

Myers said burdensome regulations in the 1990s made him want to bring about change.

On medical malpractice, one of the state's hotter issues in recent years, Myers and Grim agree that caps on the amount of money awarded in lawsuits need to be lower.

Myers also wants the state to require expert witnesses to be certified and to have a stricter screening process for frivolous lawsuits.

Asked what he'd do differently in office than Myers, Grim said, "I've preferred not to criticize" - then said of his opponent, "He is not the education candidate." Grim accused Myers of voting against a $1.3 billion increase for education.

He repeated that allegation at the candidates forum and in a campaign ad that also blasted Myers on two other votes.

"What my opponent has said is nothing more than a lie," Myers replied at the same forum.

During an interview, Myers said the allegation refers to his vote on funding the Thornton education plan. He said he supported the funding, but over a longer period than was proposed.

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